On September 15, 1999, shots rang out in the sanctuary of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth Texas. A deranged gunman invaded the “Saw You At the Pole” rally for high school students who prayed at their schools’ flag poles early that morning. These youngsters faced what no one should: pure, murderous evil. Seven killed. Seven wounded.

Pastor Al Meredith could never have imagined what he was about to endure. In the course of a few days, he faced his own shock, rushed to the hospital, held the hurting, conducted funerals, answered the media. Then Sunday came. Ignoring the suggestions to cancel services, he preached a message that was literally heard around the world. “Where Was God?”

In a calm but earnest voice, he acknowledged the shocking news. Why? Why us? How could this happen? Where is God in all of this? If an all-powerful God really loves us, why did he let this happen? Why does evil abound?

He found the answer in Romans 8:28. “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He explained that believers have confidence that there are things we can know. The first is that we can know God, know truth. Simon and Garfunkel sang, “I don’t know what is real, I am blinded by the light of God and truth and right, and I wander…” And that’s the best the world has to offer.

Pastor Al explained further that God is in control, and can bend any evil to accomplish good. The proof? The most evil thing that has ever happened in the world was God the Son tortured and killed, but out of that came the most good the world will ever know: salvation for all who trust Jesus.

This verse is a promise with a condition. It is for those who trust Jesus, the called according to His purpose. The original word for church means “called-out ones.” We, the church, need each other, especially in crisis. Jesus calls you to love him and one another.

I recently contacted Pastor Al on the occasion of his retirement. I asked for his reflections on these 16 years since the tragedy. He said, “The darkness cannot overcrowd the light.” Remember, Jesus is “the Light of life” (John 8:12). He added, “God brings much good from our disasters.” The fact is, after the tragedy Wedgewood experienced such a great ingathering that it grew 50% in five years. He concluded, “God only uses broken people and broken things.” After all, Jesus said, “He who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Mat. 10:39).

Where is God in your tragedy, your suffering? He is with you. He loves you. He is in control and can bring good from evil. He calls you according to his purpose. You can believe and trust Him, as the people of Wedgwood still do.